Fox News Clueless About Guns

When you can’t trust an allegedly conservative media outlet to properly cover firearms, it’s time to realize that the entire Second Amendment fight is completely up to you.

Starting out innocuously, Fox News reported the Army’s plans to update their pistol arsenal because their current side-arms are obsolete:

Army officials say their inventory of more than 200,000 semi-automatic Beretta M9 and Sig Sauer M11 pistols has become outdated, worn out and needs to be replaced with an updated model that also offers more reliability and durability.

True. Modern designs based upon Glock’s hammerless, striker-fire system offer many benefits. Springfield and Smith & Wesson also offer full-sized, striker-fire pistols that qualify for consideration, too. Since the striker pin is entirely internal, there’s no hammer to catch on holsters and clothing while drawing. Replacing the old Beretta safety lever design with trigger and grip safeties, depending on the model, addresses the Army’s complaint that the “safety device [lever] too often locks inadvertently.”

This could also refer to Sig’s de-cock lever, which drops the hammer while deactivating the firing mechanism. Sig pistols can then be carried more safely with a chambered round, but this requires the first shot be double action, leading to one of the problems with the Beretta and Sig: the double action/single action design. As noted by Shooting Illustrated:

The first round is fired via a long, hammer-cocking, double-action trigger press. Successive rounds are fired with a hammer-releasing, single-action press.

This means that shooters must develop two unique motor programs: one for a 12-pound, long trigger pull, and one for the shorter, lighter pull. Modern striker fire handguns require learning one relatively light trigger pull, cutting down time spent on attaining trigger control. One way to get around the double action is to carry the pistol with an empty chamber, draw and rack the slide, and then acquire your target. Another way for Beretta carriers is to chamber a round by racking the slide, thumb the safety lever up to lock the trigger, and holster the pistol, also called “cocked and locked.” This means you must take time to thumb the safety lever into the fire position while drawing, complicating the process from draw to target acquisition.

Extra time and effort could mean the difference between life and death. Modern striker fire pistols come as close to point-and-shoot as possible, cutting the time to being on-target. The Army is right in considering a new pistol.

Next, it appears the editors haven’t woken up yet. In describing a problem with the Army’s current pistols, the author wrote: “its open-slide bullet chamber allows in too much dirty, which results in jamming.” [Emphasis added]

Too Much Dirty

Oops! Perhaps he was reading a Chinese-to-English firearm manual?

What’s an “open slide bullet chamber”? The author may mean the chamber where the firing pin strikes the cartridge’s primer, causing a controlled explosion forcing the bullet to exit the barrel at high speed. Most modern semi-automatic pistols lock the slide back after the last shot from a now-empty magazine. At this point, the slide is open and you can see the firing chamber. The author also confused “bullets” with cartridges, one part of which is the bullet. Writing “open slide bullet chamber” screams “I’m clueless about guns.”

(For a more detailed tutorial on handgun anatomy, see this article by the University of Utah Health Science.)

Then there’s this:

The argument against the .40 caliber round is that its heavier weight and stronger recoil causes excessive wear on a 9 mm pistol.

Excessive Wear 40

A truer statement has never been printed…no doubt you can figure out why. (For those who haven’t yet had their morning java, imagine swallowing one baseball whole.)

Unfortunately, one of the reasons given for the pistol upgrade is to “provide soldiers with more ‘knock-down’ power.” This myth continues to rear its ugly head, especially among the “only buy a pistol if its caliber begins with 4” crowd. As Karl Rehn, owner of the KR Training firearms academy, notes:

There’s no such thing as “knockdown” power with a handgun. Every expert that’s looked at the issue with any depth comes back and says that bullet placement, not caliber, is the key, and that proficiency occurs more quickly with 9mm than with .40 and .45 or certainly .357 SIG which is a flinch-inducing, gun-breaking caliber.

He referred me to the article covering the same Army procurement story. They interviewed instructor and competitive shooter Ernest Langdon, who served in the Marines as chief instructor of Second Marine Division Scout Sniper School and the High Risk Personnel Course.

“I don’t think anybody would argue that shot placement is the most important for terminal ballistics,” Langdon said. “Even though you say a .45 is better than a 9mm, it’s still a pistol caliber. Chances are if it is a determined adversary, they are going to have to be shot multiple times regardless of the caliber.”

In other words, if you want knockdown power, a rifle’s larger and faster bullet translates into greater kinetic energy, i.e. knockdown power. Otherwise, practice so you can hit moving targets shooting back at you. In this case, modern 9mm handguns like the Springfield XDm and Smith & Wesson M&P normally carry 19 and 17 rounds per magazine, respectively, giving you more ammunition for trying to stop multiple attackers.

The article contained a good lesson on spending other people’s money:

There have been no reports on how much the new weapons will cost, amid budget concerns. However, in September 2012, Beretta received a 5-year, $64 million firm-fixed-price contract for up to 100,000 of its M9 9mm pistols, according to Defense Industry Daily.

This calculates out to $640 per pistol. Gun Broker had two new-in-box (NIB) Beretta 92—the civilian name for M9—the same pistol pistols for $600 or less. Hell, it’s only $4-6 million, or more for volume pricing; chump change. Researchers aren’t sure if Everett Dirksen said this, but politicians everywhere believe: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

A misquote here, a misnomer there, and pretty soon you’re talking real gun control.